From 1967 through 1970 my father, composer Harold Shapero, was director of the Brandeis University electronic music studio. The studio was equipped with a Buchla 100 modular synthesizer, which was at the time the state of the art. Though I was not a Brandeis student, but still in high school, my father allowed and encouraged me to work with the Buchla in the studio. I started working there when I was 14 and continued until I was 17. The portrait you see of me with the Buchla was taken (by my father) in 1970.
I spent many hours over those years improvising various “patches” on the Buchla, recording electronic music onto quarter-inch magnetic tape, using the studio’s Ampex 351. Any modification of the sound was primitive at best; the Buchla was equipped with only a spring reverb. I would take the “raw” tapes home where I would edit them and physically splice them together into listenable sequences. I would usually edit copies of the originals, saving the original tapes unspliced for further use.
The sounds on this recording, unheard for 40 years, are a compilation of assorted electronic effects which were thrown together without much planning, rather as a storehouse than as a finished piece. They date from 1968 and 1969. The modern aesthetic of patchwork and accidental meaning, which was only at its beginning in 1968, has made this into “listenable” material. If you listen carefully, you can hear the splices.
Who is Marietta Cashman? Notes on the title and the cover
The cover of this album is the original art and graphics from the box that the “Marietta Cashman” compilation tape came in, to which new graphics about the artist and instrumentation have been added. I gave the title to the compilation in 1969 as a kind of Frank Zappa-style absurdist labeling. (I was listening to a lot of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention at that time.) I didn’t know anyone named Marietta Cashman.
The caricature on the tape box is a political commentary. I drew it as a satire of a certain type of political enthusiast in the 1968 United States presidential campaign. The lady with the handbag and the political badge is “Marietta Cashman.” If you look closely, you can see that her badge reads “GENE.” This refers to Eugene McCarthy, a very liberal and idealistic Senator who ran for President on a strongly anti-Vietnam War program. McCarthy’s people included earnest, serious, and not very fashionably dressed types, full of ideology and utopian fervor. This type may still exist today. It is possible that “Marietta” was a bit of a self-portrait as I imagined myself to be later in life.
I am now 56 years old, and I don’t resemble Marietta, at least most of the time. With the encouragement of my friends in the current electronic and ambient community I have returned to making electronic sounds after 40 years. It’s a far different world, where computers dominate and reel to reel tape is an ancient relic. I record now under the name of “Altocumulus,” but for this Marietta release, I use the name I had in my youth, “Hannah M.G. Shapero.”
Production & Mastering 2009 : Mark "Mystahr" Stolk
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